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UN Leader Offers Reform Package

Annan wants changes that link development, security, and human rights

March 28, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 13


United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan unfurled proposals for revamping and reforming the UN that some observers characterize as the most sweeping since the UN was created in 1945.

In addition to a series of management reforms, Annan has called for an expanded UN Security Council; a new, smaller human rights council; tougher disarmament and antiterrorism measures; and greater efforts to combat infectious diseases.

Annan's proposals in a 63-page report are structured to frame reform debates that are to be taken up at a UN summit in September. When he presented the proposals to the General Assembly on March 21, Annan asked that they be considered as a "comprehensive strategy" and that nations not "treat the list as an la carte menu, and select only those that you especially fancy." He is calling for equal emphasis on development, security, and human rights.

Because the report was written to advance the Millennium Development Goals approved by the UN in 2000, most of Annan's proposals concern social and economic policies. Among these are schemes to reverse the loss of environmental resources, ensure sustainable access to safe drinking water, and provide--in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies--access to affordable, essential drugs in developing countries to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

In addition, Annan asks the global community to support research and development to address the needs of poor nations in the areas of health, agriculture, natural resource and environmental management, energy, and climate. But he also proposes expanding the Security Council from 15 to 24 members. And he recommends replacing the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights with a smaller council.

To promote disarmament and prevent proliferation, Annan calls for revitalization of and renewed support for existing chemical, biological, and nuclear treaties. And he proposes a new global strategy to combat terrorism, which he defines as any action "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."

He further recommends that the Security Council adopt rules governing whether and when member nations use force. The U.S., which waged war against Iraq without Security Council approval, is unlikely to support this.

Although some Arab nations are expected to balk at the definition of terrorism put forth by Annan, David Shorr, director for policy analysis at the Stanley Foundation, believes "it is going to be easier to get somewhere on antiterrorism and nonproliferation than on rules governing peace and war." Shorr's organization played a role in the genesis of Annan's report.



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